Sojourn for the soul
Six days shall you labour,’ says the commandment but ingenious workers across the world have managed to snip away another day from the drudgery-filled...
It's village adoption season. This time, add substance to your weekend trip and visit a village nearby. Engaging with a rural society would not only be a charming novelty for hardcore urbanites, but also a reality check to understand that there is a world that is rife with issues
Kyon na hum tum
Chalein tedhe medhe se raston pe nange paon re
Chal bhatak le na banware…
Kyon na hum tum talaashein
Bageechon mein fursat bhari chhaon mein
Chal bhatak le na banware
‘Six days shall you labour,’ says the commandment but ingenious workers across the world have managed to snip away another day from the drudgery-filled week, adding one to the relaxing day, thus inventing the quaintly sweet phenomenon called the weekend. And then made it sweeter by further inventing ‘long weekends’, dexterously clubbing holidays strewn about in the week with the weekend.
And then a code of conduct has been worked out for the weekend, in stark contrast to what we have defined as the toil of the total week. Anyone who works in this pattern understands how the code goes – relax, bask, float, dawdle, loiter, nap, sleep, eat, ride, drive, swim. And, for many, weekend is about travel. Small-time, short travel that brings them back home just in time to get set for the ensuing week.
So, all ye wekenders, this time, try something new. Different. The number of people who still have roots in villages is gradually decreasing with each passing year. As young people move to cities in search of education and livelihood opportunities, their families move with them. And then the new abode becomes home and the roots are lost somewhere in the ground that they trod on as children.
Villages for many city-dwellers are unfamiliar terrain. Impressions range from that of an exotic slice of pastoral bliss to dirty, dark habitations that offer no comforts. While both may have an element of truth, it’s now probably a good idea to combine our weekend quest with the India that is so near and yet so far for most of us city dwellers. Visit a village.
The sheer diversity of India is so astounding that it is no surprise that the language, dialect, the attire, terrain, food, architecture display changes every 50 km we travel. Crossing a state border takes us into a culture and landscape so different that it is a chapter all by itself. It has been rightly said that think of any place in the world and you can find a match in India, in the same colour and texture.
So how does one visit a village? It’s neither possible nor desirable to barge into any strange village and gape and click pictures of women carrying pots, farmers tilling lands and old men smoking. As if they are Martians who decided to settle down a few kilometres from your own dwelling. Make a plan. A simple plan. Those who have roots have no issues.
But those of you whose only-known address goes like ‘six dash four dash four forty two by seven by A by two’, will have to find a source, a link to a place that you can tap. Make a plan. Drive down to a village close by. Walk around. Have a cup of tea. Chat with people there. Visit a school. Visit the Panchayat. Check out the shop, step into the temple. If there’s a pond, depending on which region you are in, sit and meditate on its embankment. If the village is famous for something, find out what it is and take a look.
Find out the history, ask for stories. Walk into the fields, talk to a farmer. Engage the elderly who are invariably sitting and chatting. Play with the kids. And you would discover that it would indeed be an aberration if someone in the village tells you to get out and get lost. What is the aim of such a proposal? It is not just about roots and rural fantasies. It is not just about introducing oneself to an area that we are all familiar with but are still strangers.
As the urban-rural divide grows in many ways – from technology to lifestyle, from infrastructure to facilities, from opportunities to incomes – it is time some attempt has been made to bridge it. And the first step is to get a first-hand experience of life in a rural setting. A semi-urban village or a remote tribal village, depending on one’s proclivity and feasibility to travel.
The first step is to understand the functioning of the village and its resources; its institutions and customs; its deprivation and poverty; the lack of infrastructure such as roads and schools and hospitals and a proper public space; and what went wrong and where. It is an engagement that can be termed constructive regardless of whether you do something or not to change it for better.
At best, it could teach us about things that affect us directly, such as the agrarian crisis and the farmers' issues. If nothing else, it is a reality check from synthetic, artificial villages that cities create for themselves. Especially for the next generation that will see more unprecedented changes all around them.
It appears it is a season for adopting villages, both on-screen and off the screen. Why don't we join the bandwagon and spend time visiting, if not adopting, a village?